We have all heard of patenting building systems, building technologies, details and of course, products. But what about patenting architecture? Jack Martin brought this to our attention in light of Apple successfully getting an architectural patent for the design of a store in the Upper West Side in New York City, asking “On what grounds can you patent architecture?” The inventors listed in the patent are architects Karl Backus, Peter Bohlin and George Bradley of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and Robert Bridger, Benjamin L. Fay, Steve Jobs and Bruce Johnson for a design that Architect’s Newspaper describes as “meticulous and seamless as its clients”. So, what is the extent of patenting architecture? Structural systems, materials, details, conceptual strategies, the look of it? We interpret architecture as a language in itself, but it is difficult to conceive of copyright infringement when it comes to architectural design because it is difficult to pin-point exactly what makes all of the parts of a building a copyrighted entity. What if Le Corbusier patented his designs? Mies van der Rohe? Frank Lloyd Wright? Their work and strategies have been copied and implemented all over the world to varying degrees. So, where is the line between protecting an original idea and creating a barrier against progress? Or does this commercialization of architecture fuel competition to design better or design around strategies already patented? More after the break.
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